The Palau Media Council joins other Pacific media in criticizing Nauru government’s decision to ban any Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) staff member from travelling to Nauru to cover the Pacific Islands Forum in September.

The Palau Media Council urges Nauru as a fellow Micronesian nation as Palau to reconsider its decision to block ABC from the Forum and calls on all Forum member countries to do everything they can to ensure that freedom of the press and transparency at the Forum is not restricted.

“Our council stands behind press freedom and open governance in the governments of the Pacific especially those in the Micronesian subregion such as Nauru.  We condemn any attempts in any governments   to stifle the free flow of information and the right of the peoples of the Pacific to know what they are doing or speaking for them in the only regional forum like PIF,” Moses Uludong, PMC Chairman stated.

The Pacific Islands Forum annual gathering is a very important meeting for the peoples of Pacific Island countries including Australia. Blocking the ABC from attending the Forum jeopardizes coverage and access to information to the people of Australia about our leaders’ decisions. This ban affects the quality of coverage and millions of people in Australia and in Pacific nations that rely on ABC for news.

Free and fair reporting is an important principle of journalism and in democratic system of governance.

Journalists cannot do their job properly if governments pick and choose journalists based on how positive their coverage of their countries.

The Nauru government has a longstanding dispute with the ABC for its reporting of challenges to the rule of law and democracy on Nauru, issues for which Nauru has been criticized also by international bodies.

The Palau Media Council endorses the comments of Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “We obviously support press freedom, naturally, and we regret that the ABC has not been given a visa.”

The journalists who make up Australia’s Parliamentary Press gallery have decided not to send representatives to Nauru.

The Media Council agrees with Press gallery president David Crowe who said the ban is an “outrageous restriction on press freedom”.

The Media Council of Palau believes banning one or any media entities or journalists, is an assault on freedom of the press and risks setting an unfortunate precedent in the Pacific.

“Nauru’s decision to block ABC sets a bad example to other Forum members creating an environment that is working against a free press in the Pacific,” Uludong said. (PR)